I’m walking, my oversized shoes slap on the industrial carpet. Mr. Dandy is somewhere behind me. My crumpled and oversized J. Crew Chino’s uncomfortably sag off my a**. And, I’m dragging this bitch of a carry-on with its shrieking left wheel ricocheting its echo up and down the jetway.
I catch a faint mix of Purell hand sanitizer and sweat. The Purell is me, no doubt – the other half, just can’t be me. I crane my neck down to confirm, and it’s confirmed. As I lift my head back up, I catch another shot, must be from the winter coat two bodies ahead.
I’m undeterred by all of this, beaming with good fortune – a complimentary upgrade to first class.
She’s behind me, but I don’t see her.
I stuff my bag into the overhead bin, and step out of the aisle to let the traffic pass. She points to the window: “I’m sorry, but that’s my seat.”
In the tight quarters of the aisle, we are separated by inches. She’s in her mid to late 20’s. She’s wearing jeans, and a baggy red sweater. She’s an inch or two shorter, but I’m dwarfed by her, by a minimum of 1.3x my body weight. She settles in her seat.
For more than 2,000,000 flight miles, the ritual is solitary confinement. Get in seat, twist in ear buds, and emit a repellent: “there’ll be no small talk, none, zero.” Yet, here, and now, I have this need to strike up a conversation, and it throws me off kilter.
“Did you luck out with an upgrade too?”
She smiles but does not respond. I’m missed the mark, and fail to see why. That should have been enough, would have been enough for me, but I have this hankering to want to pursue. She pulls out The Circle by Dave Eggers.
“Do you like the book?”
“I just started it. I’m reading it for book club.”
Now that she’s engaged, I’m dragged along by some ragging current – I want to continue. No, I need to continue. I’m in territory well beyond my comfort zone, yet there is a need to engage, and a need to make her feel OK.
“Did you happen to read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Eggers. Great book.”
“No, it’s my first by Eggers.”
She turns back to her book, silent for the rest of the flight.
I’m swamped by her presence.
I pull out my e-reader, and reread the same paragraph over and over. I flip on a movie, but can’t focus. I recline my seat to nap, but can’t sleep.
I glance over. The book rests on her lap. Both arms are tucked tight to her body, a body that fills the seat. No part of her is on the armrest. I copy the position but can’t hold it for more than a few minutes letting my arms spill over on both armrests.
She’s offered a drink. “No thank you.” She’s offered breakfast. “No thank you.” It’s a three hour flight, she does not get up once. She does not lay her arm on any part of the armrest for the entire trip. Two humans on different sides of Oversize, one sitting quietly reading. The other unsettled, unhinged, really.
What do I know?
How dare I deduce?
Who am I too judge?